Well, I’m just going to come out and say it: I haven’t had a traditional Thanksgiving dinner in I don’t know how many years. And I don’t miss it! For me, holidays are harder now than when I was younger. I’m still me, but the ‘helpers’ I used to rely on to get me through the stress and overstimulation of the season no longer work. My body no longer tolerates alcohol or ibuprofen. Sleep deprivation costs me more than it used to and the recovery period is substantial. And my dietary restrictions have increased considerably—I did not have any life threatening allergies as a child or young adult.
Thanksgiving dinner? Really problematic for me with my dietary issues (as is common for many autistics). I actually could eat the turkey, but I don’t care for it all that much and there is no way my husband and I are going to get through an entire bird…Also, trying to coordinate multiple dishes to get done at exactly the same time (or at least all be warm at the same time) presents an executive functioning challenge that is overwhelming just to think about. No thank you.
So….what to do instead? Staying regulated is top priority for me. I’ll do a ‘nod’ toward Thanksgiving dinner—make some homemade cranberry sauce to have with a roasted chicken, perhaps a root vegetable gratin and some pumpkin custard over the course of the holiday weekend. No rush to have it all at the same time, just moving at my own pace and having a treat ready here or there throughout that time.
Same rhythm when it comes to connecting with family—I usually will not talk to more than one person each day because I have found that more than that gets overwhelming. I live on a small island and do not have any extended family members here with me. So I maybe do a Zoom call with nieces and nephews one day, then call my folks the day after, and so on. I prefer to see them in person at other points of the year when there isn’t the holiday traffic combined with iffy weather conditions that I could get stuck in.
Stepping back from Thanksgiving and trying to do something more low key that keeps you regulated is not a sin. Make it your own, make it a holiday you actually enjoy, and don’t apologize to anyone for going your own way!
Oh, and if like me you can’t have pumpkin pie but really miss it, check out this recipe for pumpkin custard. And if dairy is not your friend either, I can vouch for coconut cream being a delicious substitute for heavy whipping cream: